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A modern twist on the silk scarf

That’s a wrap

Silk scarves have a reputation as old-fashioned. But as this one from Hermès proves, there are sharp, modern ways to wear them

Silk scarves have a reputation as old-fashioned. But as this one from Hermès proves, there are sharp, modern ways to wear them

Melanie Grant | December 20th 2016

I would like to report a crime. One of my favourite accessories, the silk scarf, has been kidnapped by middle-aged women with helmet hair. I’m not sure when it happened – I was too busy fashioning my own collection of silk squares into trendy bandanas – but it is ongoing. Visit Paris and elderly matriarchs with yapping chihuahuas have them fluttering at their throats. Breakfast in New York and long-in-the-tooth ladies who lunch on the Upper East Side like to twist them round the handles of their statement handbags. The worst offenders are to be found in the wilds of the English countryside. Here matronly women stride across fields in granny-style cardigans, lolloping hounds snapping at their heels. The equestrian scarf (a staple of the hunting season) clamped firmly over their Fifties-style bouffants.

Maybe I am fighting a losing battle. There comes a time in every woman’s life where she must put down the symbols of youth (denim hot pants, mini skirts, leather trousers) and face the horrors of middle age (Spanx, sensible shoes and an elasticated waist band). Yet I refuse to put the scarf into the latter category because it can still be cool. One of my favourite creations is the Quadridge Costume, a colourful silk square or carré made by Hermès. It has four bridled horses heads intertwined against a backdrop of vivid reds and blues and was designed by the French illustrator Pierre Péron.

French high society has always had a soft spot for thoroughbred horse racing. In the 1850s Napoleon III would sail down the river Seine in his private yacht to watch the races at Longchamp. Hermès designed their first carré in 1937 which referenced jockeys’ silks. It gave stylish Parisians a way to wear horses in the city and tapped into the saddle-making history of the brand without the expense of buying a Sac à dépêches or Kelly bag. All that horse power makes me feel like I can battle the blue rinse brigade wearing my scarf as a cape, superhero style.

I went to their Bond Street store to find new ways to wear the Quadridge. “You fold it like a ribbon or in half like a triangle and place it around your shoulders”, advised a stylish New Yorker I got chatting to on the ground floor. She demonstrated both with one hand while holding a small child and Birkin in the other. I was impressed, but it seemed too old-fashioned. To realise the full potential of my scarf I could also purchase a deck of Hermès cards which would instruct me on every conceivable way to tie it. Each knot has its own name. The “Bandeau Retro”, a forward-facing head tie, sounds ironically old-school but trendy. Fashion loves a throwback. I have taken back the carré in the name of (relative) youth. I’ve got a few good years left in me where I shall combine the Quadridge with red lipstick and big hair. Those sensible shoes can wait a while.

Hermès Quadrige Costume 100% silk scarf, £280

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